Panel 7 – Representation, commodification and multiculture – PSH302

Cultural Inequality, Racism and Neo-colonial Beauty – Dr. Meeta Rani Jha, University of Winchester

Beauty cultures are capitalist formations which integrate national, local and transnational characteristics derived from fashion, beauty contests, celebrity  and popular culture, health, advertising and other beauty discourses. The global circulation of Eurocentric beauty ideals has resulted in valorization of embodied whiteness as a prevalent civil discourse of modern citizenship in formation of gendered nationalism and neoliberal consumer cultures, consolidating a neo-colonial beauty ideal across the globe.

This paper will explore case study of two beauty industries, skin lightening in India and cosmetic surgery in China, to analyze the ways in which contemporary changes related to globalization and advanced capitalism may have consolidated racism and colourism in validating Eurocentric beauty norms in embodiment, facial features, skin colour, hair texture and colour, as aspects of modern citizenship, thus conflating progress with consumption of whiteness and cosmetic westernism.

Drawing on decolonial and intersectional frames of thinking practiced by Black, third world, postcolonial, and transnational feminists, this paper examines embodied beauty as privilege and as a site of structural inequality. It traces the global travel of beauty protests of the 1960s US Black Power and Civil Rights social movement ,“Black is Beautiful” to a feminist anti-colourism campaign, “Dark is Beautiful” in India. The “racial and cultural pride” manifesto of this social movement decentered dominant white cultural epistemology and generated solidarity amongst black and third world cultures. Their common purpose of decolonizing minds, bodies and consciousness continues to inspire and influence activists challenging cultural racism around the world.

A comparative analysis of multicultural discourses for advertising practitioners in the UK and USA – Nessa Adams, Regent’s University London

Whilst the use of multiculturalism is generally contested in political and social terms (Beck, Giddens and Lash, 1994; Joppke, 2004; Kymlicka, 2012; Modood, 2013; Rattansi, 2011), it is increasingly becoming a buzz word in the advertising industry. The use of multiculturalism in advertising differs to its origins, aiming to represent cultural diversity through strategic communication. In considering this differentiation, this paper is concerned with multicultural discourses amongst practitioners in the UK and USA. The purpose of collecting data in these two countries is to understand how multicultural discourses differ, the complexities of institutional and ‘new’ racism, and how this affects the implementation of multicultural communication. The data was collected through semi-structured interviews and ethnography with thirty-two practitioners, taking place within two multicultural agencies in the UK and two in the USA.

The paper firstly finds that talking about diversity is often a strategy to legitimise working practices. Practitioners often speak about diversity being important during the interviews. However, the ethnography shows there is little implementation of creative communication strategies. I argue that this shows how power operates on a structural level (Giddens, 1984; 1987) and highlights the implications this has on media representations. Furthermore, I adopt Bourdieu’s (1984) framework of cultural production and discuss how this charismatic legitimacy is dependent on the position taking of practitioners (Born, 2010; Edwards, 2013; Hall, 1993; Hesmondhaulgh and Saha, 2013). The paper then develops how this position taking differs in the UK and USA. It is evident in the UK that practitioners speak negatively about multiculturalism in both society and the advertising industry as a whole. This ultimately has an effect on the increase of independent agencies specialising in multicultural communication. However, the practitioners in the USA speak about multiculturalism in a more positive light and there is evidence of more in-house multicultural specialist teams within traditional agencies.

Diversity tourism as a ‘break in reality’: gentrification and white, middle class longing – Dr Linda Lapina, Roskilde University

Gentrification debates often evolve around a duality of ’gentrifiers’ and those displaced by gentrification, at times implying a moral ordering of villains and victims. The diversity tourist is an analytical figure shaped by stances, practices and longing of white middle class residents in Copenhagen’s Nordvest, that reshuffles this ordering. Like the flâneur, this figure aims to capture particular aspects of contemporary, multicultural urban life.

The diversity tourist’s stance is that of privileged distance from ‘true locals’ that are included into the notion of racialized, poor and/or eccentric ‘diversity’. This ‘diversity’ is consumed in various ways- from stimulating spectacle (‘eating the Other’) to transformative pedagogy and healthy vitamin pill- and intertwined with longing for ‘reality’ and escape.

The informants live in Nordvest, the same district they observe and describe in terms of ‘diversity’, special ‘reality’ and a ‘break’ from gentrified, ordered ‘Copenhagen’. ‘Nordvest’ and ‘Copenhagen’ are articulated as oppositional, but mutually constitutive urban spaces. Consequently, the figure of diversity tourist signifies a limbo. The ‘reality’ and ‘escape’ sought from ‘Copenhagen’ white middle class life are conceived in terms defined by that very life.

New ethnicities, Old Orientalisms? Hierarchies of Belonging in East Asian Nightlife Spaces in Neoliberal Britain – Dr Diana Yeh, City University, London and Dr Tamsin Barber, Oxford Brookes University

This paper examines hidden forms of living with difference in new urban spaces by examining emergent East Asian nightlife spaces in the neoliberal city in Britain. While engaging with earlier work on urban multiculture, the paper attends to the increased complexity of processes brought by the dramatic rise in international mobility in recent decades, the intensification of global flows of youth cultures and the neoliberalisation of cities.

Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork of nightlife spaces in London, Nottingham, Sheffield and Bristol, it examines how young people challenge racialized constructions of East Asians as a ‘model minority’ by drawing on global popular culture to organize and participate in what they call ‘Oriental’ nightlife spaces. It demonstrates that appropriation of the racial discourse ‘Oriental’ emerges from everyday experiences of difference, exclusion and othering in relation to other ‘racial’ groups. It analyses how through these spaces participants forge a sense of identity that allows them to resist racism and reimagine themselves as racialized subjects through collective belonging within urban space. Yet it also exposes new tensions, exclusions and hierarchies of belonging experienced by participants that relate to ethnicity, citizenship status, class, gender and social capital, which are fluid, situational and specific to local contexts. The paper argues that while these become particularly fraught in the context of the mobility of international students and the neoliberalisation of cities, they are mediated by old ‘Orientalisms’ fractured through contemporary concerns around race and migration, as well as the commodification of culture. The paper therefore attends to how conviviality and exclusion within East Asian spaces are mediated by wider processes of the consumption and fears around urban multiculture, demonstrating the complex multi-layered dynamics of belonging in Britain’s cities today.